The Alberta Teachers’ Association has launched a defamation lawsuit against Piotr Pilarski, a key member of the Progressive Conservative party, over statements he made on Twitter.
The tweets, which are reproduced in the statement of claim filed by the ATA on June 6, includes one that says: "The #ATA is soft on pedophiles and that doesn't work for Albertans. Full stop. period. Nothing else."
Another one cited in the court document said: "The facts are simple...the ATA does mot (sic) cancel certificates for pedophole (sic) teachers. Period."
The tweets that prompted the lawsuit allegedly appeared on Pilarski’s Twitter feed on May 27 and 29.
The statement of claim alleges Pilarski published the tweets to discredit and subject the ATA to ridicule, hatred and contempt.
It further claims that the tweets made it look as though the ATA supports and is unconcerned about pedophiles teaching in schools or having teaching certificates; that the ATA doesn’t properly discipline and cancel the certificates of teachers found to be pedophiles or who are convicted of sexually abusing children.
The ATA calls the statements false and malicious.
Tweets published for political reasons, ATA alleges
In the statement of claim, the ATA says that it demanded an apology and asked Pilarski to remove the tweets.
The court document claims that he didn’t take them down nor did he apologize.
In a call with CBC News, Pilarski did not deny making the statements. He says he removed the tweets last Friday and received the statement of claim on Monday. He apologized to the ATA via Twitter on June 6.
But an ATA spokesperson says the move comes too late.
“The Twitter message of Mr. Pilarski was sent after the Statement of Claim was filed,” the written statement read.
“Although the message may look like an apology, it is not adequate -- it is too little, too late.”
Pilarski was the campaign manager for Calgary MLA Sandra Jansen, who was the vice-chair of the Task Force for Teaching Excellence.
The ATA is opposed to the task force’s recommendations to relieve the association of its responsibility for teacher discipline and evaluation.
The statement of claim alleges that he published the tweets for political reasons.
“As the former campaign manager for the Vice-Chair of the Task Force, Pilarski published the Defamatory Words in a calculated attempt to generate political and public support for the recommendations of the Task Force relating to the ATA’s discipline and practice review processes, and to encourage and incite public antipathy to the ATA,” the court document states.
None of the allegations in the ATA statement of claim have been proven in court.
Tweets are fair comment: Pilarski
Pilarski told CBC News that both he and his lawyer believe that what he wrote was fair comment.
“All I was doing is that I was offering my own personal opinion on a matter of public policy,” Pilarski said.
“I think that there’s a lot of people who agree with me, so I’m fairly disappointed that the ATA decided to take the measures they have.”
Pilarski says he stands by what he wrote which came in the the context of Education Minister Jeff Johnson firing and revoking the teaching certificates of four teachers.
Of the four, the ATA investigations allegations that one teacher had sexual intercourse with a student and another that is alleged to have engaged in sexual conversations with a student.